The best thing you can say about Oh, You Pretty Things!, the new webseries about a group of bloggers and musicians in Los Angeles, is that at least it has the good manners to reveal just how terrible it is from the get-go.
Let’s analyze the opening scene. We are shown a “rock star” in a photo shoot, smashing a guitar. A photographer eggs him on. “Hold that energy!” she shouts. “Keep it in the zone!” It’s the clumsy language of a person with a vague understanding of what it is to take photographs but with no idea whatsoever of what it is to be a photographer.
The whole scene is defined by a sort of half-assed cultural approximation that you might let slide on something unfashionable like Days of Our Lives (where the bad boy is lazily defined by his haircut rather than a backstory) but can’t pass without comment on something that would have been pitched as “real” and “edgy” in some boardroom.
You see, some middle-aged executive might not see anything wrong with dressing a character in a black mesh vest—that’s probably what he thinks rock stars look like. Nor might he notice that the guitar being smashed is acoustic (which frankly makes no sense—what, did he get too worked up playing Classical Gas?). But anyone that has any idea about music will.
Inauthentic iconography aside, the acting itself is below par. Francesca Eastwood (the daughter of Clint, and by her performance in this, perhaps little else) struggles, with one attempt at crying being particularly comic. But in truth none of the cast are helped by a script and pacing that allows little character development outside forceful directorial signifiers—drinking spirits straight from the bottle (troubled), owning a journal (deep). Even when there are opportunities to reveal something about one character we are just told that “Oh you know, Shep’s Shep,” a revelation that is incredibly unenlightening considering we know so little about Shep.
Oh, You Pretty Things! is produced by Maker Studios (which is in the process of being sold to Disney for nearly a billion dollars) and Nylon, the magazine and media company. The collaboration was described by Nylon’s editor-in-chief and the webseries’ producer Marvin Scott Jarrett as an opportunity to “entertain [the] viewers who define our cultural zeitgeist.”
You’ve got to suspect that the viewers that Jarrett desires are reflected in the characters of Oh, You Pretty Things!, which is problematic due to their inauthenticity, both for a producer trying to find an audience and to us, as they are the ones apparently setting our cultural agenda. It’s apt therefore to note that the David Bowie song from which the series takes its name, is less about those that are pretty than the obsolescence of the human race (“We’ve finished our news/Homo sapiens have outgrown their use”).
You’d love to think that the choice in title was an ironic jab at the people the show portrays, but it appears unlikely that anyone involved in this is bright enough for that sort of subtlety.
Tom Harrington is a film, television, and webseries critic from Sydney who lives in London.
Screengrab via Maker TV